Sally Rooney has defended her decision to refuse an Israeli publishing house’s bid to translate her new novel into Hebrew as she pledges “solidarity with the Palestinian people”.
The acclaimed author said that while it would be “an honour” to have her latest novel translated into Hebrew, she has chosen not to sell the translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.
It comes after reports emerged on Tuesday that her agent Tracy Bohan had informed the publisher Modan that Rooney was refusing their bid to translate her novel Beautiful World, Where Are You into Hebrew.
Ms Bohan told Modan that Rooney is supporting the cultural boycott movement on Israel over the conflict with Palestine, according to several media outlets.
Rooney’s first two novels – 2017’s Conversations With Friends and 2018’s Normal People – were both published in Hebrew by Modan.
The reports sparked a debate around the subject on Tuesday, with many people on social media criticising Rooney’s decision to support the Boycott Divestments and Sanctions (BDS).
Among them was Jewish People Policy Institute fellow Gitit Levy-Paz who wrote in an article for the website Forward, that the decision “surprised and saddened me” and that a cultural boycott “is among the most slippery of slopes”.
In a statement later on Tuesday, the Irish author broke her silence on the controversy, explaining that the Hebrew translation rights are still available but she refused the bid from a company “that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people”.
Rooney cited a report from international campaign group Human Rights Watch and another from Israel’s prominent human rights organisation B’Tselem, which both found that Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid.
She also explained her support for the BDS movement as “a Palestinian-led, anti-racist and nonviolent grassroots campaign calling for an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to the apartheid system and other grave human rights violations.”
Rooney said: “I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.
“The Hebrew-language translation rights to my new novel are still available, and if I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so.
“In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”
Her new novel, which has topped UK and Irish book charts since its release last month, follows the sexual relationship between a prize-winning writer and her university friend.
Earlier this year, Rooney joined thousands of other artists in signing a letter which called for “an end to the support provided by global powers to Israel and its military; especially the United States”.
The letter also says: “We ask governments that are enabling this crime against humanity to apply sanctions, to mobilize levers of international accountability, and to cut trade, economic and cultural relations.”